This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
–T. S. Eliot
On the day the world was to have ended I spent the greater part of the morning shoveling out from a blizzard. It was back-breaking work, but it was eventually done and I was able to get out and go where I needed to go. The snow was beautiful, clinging to trees, covering everything with a soft white stillness. The world did not end. It revealed more beauty.
Throughout our history there have repeatedly been dire warnings of the end times, the horrible apocalypse that will destroy the earth and all its inhabitants. Typically there is one group that looks forward to the end of all that is and also believes that they alone will somehow be saved. There is the rapture that will take up all Christian believers while everyone else remains behind to suffer a period of tribulation, temporarily abandoned by Christ. This past week there was a group of believers in the supposed Mayan end times who went to Bugarach, a small town in France, believing that while the rest of the world would face annihilation they would be taken up in spaceships by benevolent aliens. Other groups went to other towns that for some reason were believed to be protected while everything else would be obliterated. They survived, as did the rest of the world. Inevitably the predictions of the end times are always quickly forgotten and before long a new narrative appears that is based on secret knowledge and a new group of believers prepares for the long-awaited fate.
Somehow T. S. Eliot in his poem The Hollow Men seems closer to an accurate prediction of end times–no gigantic explosion, no sudden flooding of the entire earth, no cataclysmic event, and no Supreme Being wreaking vengeance upon a frightened populace. Instead it seems more likely that it will be the result of the continuous poisoning and destruction of the planet from pollution and man’s inability to reconcile our behavior with its ultimate consequences. The way we have been going when the world ends it will be far more likely a slow agonizing death ending with the whimpering of fools.
Those who have projected the end of the world at various times have always had excuses for why they were wrong, but they have always been wrong. The reality of this most recent prediction, and it was documented by many sources all along, is that the Mayans did not predict the end of the world. No reputable scholar believed that the world would end on that day and most people worldwide didn’t either, as evidenced by the countless ironic “end of the world” parties and concerts. Even those who most clearly believe in the spiritual path of the Mayans believed not that the world would end but that a new world would begin, a world in which greed, murder, and other ills would end. It wasn’t that they believed it would all end on that date, but that it would mark the beginning of a new age, the dawn of a new era of peace and harmony.
Clearly wars have not yet ended, murders continue, people the world over are homeless and hungry. These things cannot be changed in a day. But if the end of a calendar or a several thousand year old era can awaken consciousness then it serves a purpose. At this time in the history of our earth and of man’s place in the grand scheme of things we need to awaken ourselves. We need to reach out to each other in community. We need to move ourselves toward love, peace, and caretaking of our mother earth if we are to survive, if we don’t want the planet to wind down into an agonizing ending.
There are millions of people heeding that call. I have seen many, many examples of it just in my town–citizens taking it upon themselves to tend to the homeless, to protest legislators who are not working for the people, to build community, and more. Whether it is because of the supposed Mayan new era or whether it is simply that they understand that our salvation depends upon us caring for each other and for our planet doesn’t matter. What matters is that more and more people are connecting with their hearts and connecting their hearts with their fellow beings. As long as this continues we can believe in the possibility of salvation and when the world finally does come to its ultimate end it may not be with a whimper, but a contented sigh, a smile, and knowledge that we did all we could to save the world or at least make it a better place while we are here.